Help Us Adopt 2 Sets of Twins!

For: Matt + Holly Michelson
Organizer: Holly Michelson
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The Story

Five years ago God called us to adopt... We didn’t know why, or where we would come up with the finances, or how crazy and awesome our adoption story would be.

Matthew was only two months old, we were renting, and Matt was still in school. But God’s calling was clear. Since then, we have been praying and waiting for God to prepare us and show us the right time. It wasn’t until February of 2016 that we felt it was time to start the process. Doors began to open.  We felt led to search through the waiting children, specifically sibling groups. Their location made no difference to us.

In March 2016, we found our twin girls from Africa! Our home study wasn’t even completed and many obstacles stood in our way, but we knew God wanted us to pursue them. Want to hear something crazy? The day that God put adoption on our hearts five years ago, was literally 10 days after our girls were born. I sobbed when I realized this. "These girls have always been in my heart." We have prayed for them ever since they were 10 days old.

Countless miracles have blessed us with affirmation. Matt and I are confident we are walking in God's will. Now (December 2016 just before Christmas) Matt and I with our 6 year old son are in Africa. We have been here for over a month while adopting our twin 5 year old girls. Another awesome and unexpected thing happened. A missionary here brought two more orphans to our attention. Another set of twins! These sweet hearts are only 11 months old. Their mother died, their dad abused and neglected them, and the rest of their family abandoned them. The babies were almost starved to death. After many hospital visits they regained most of their health. Now that the babies are out of the hospital, they are losing weight again. The government, and other missionaries have sponsored the babies to try to keep them in their village but it isn't making a difference. Their health is not improving. The funds have not been going towards the babies, they need to be rescued.

At first we were not sure if it was possible for our family. We started asking questions even though we thought we would get a lot of doors slammed in our faces.  We prayed, and received no slammed doors! Every time another door opened we stood in awe (and in a bit of shock). Could this really be happening? Are we really going from a family of three to a family of 7 in one trip? Yes it is crazy, there will be many trials, but we want to be obedient. This has felt like a calling from God since the missionary first mentioned the babies to us.  We've had all the green lights we need to adopt them but can't have them placed in our care until our American adoption agency receives the $24,000 adoption fee. We know God's will is awesome and perfect. We know His timing is impeccable. And we know He is the ultimate provider. This is nothing for Him. 

Not all are called to adopt, but all are called to care for orphans and widows. We come to you, and humbly ask for your help. May God put a love for orphans in your hearts. Help us save the lives of two babies, help us give these four children a loving and Christ-centered home. 

We are asking you to:

  1. Pray for us. For wisdom, guidance, and provision.
  2. Pray for both sets of twins. For safety, emotional healing, and physical healing. 
  3. Pray for our agency. For speed, ability, and honesty.
  4. Pray for Africa. Their court system, and the adoption process here. 
  5. Pray that all obstacles are removed from our path so that our adoptions may be finalized as soon as possible so that we can come home with all our children. 
  6. Pray that God is honored through the sharing of our story. 
  7. Encourage us. 
  8. Share our fundraising effort as much as you can.
  9. Lastly, and only if you are able, we ask you to help us by contributing to this fundraiser (No checks please, since we are out of the country). Every little bit brings us closer to nurturing the babies back to health. 

Thank you for all your support!

Fundraising Support Page:

Holly's Email: 

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on March 24, 2017

Posted on March 24, 2017

Yesterday I pleaded for prayers. Our intense emotional struggle through our current trial felt unbearable. There are so many factors adding together to make us both stressed. But we are constantly reminded of God’s goodness. He is indeed gracious and has already overcome this world we are wrestling with. We try to find and focus on all the joy there is to be had. Nevertheless, we are human, and the struggle is real. 
In times like this I can’t help but wonder, “Is there a reason God isn’t hearing me/answering my prayer/giving me what I’ve begged for?” I get discouraged with a feeling of being alone and feeling guilty that there is something in my life preventing fellowship with my heavenly father. After getting the kids in bed last night I probably should have gone straight to bed because of how little sleep I had the night before and because of how draining my day was. Instead I sat down alone, in the dark kitchen, and I opened my Bible. When diving into the word, I tend to pray, “Lord, speak to me as I read your word.” Last night, I prayed differently. “Lord, please teach me what You want me to learn about You.” I lost my place in the Psalms and ended up at Psalms107. I cried as I read it. The electricity went out and I willingly drained the battery on my phone with the flashlight app so that I could reread the chapter. 

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;

his love endures forever.

2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—

those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,

3 those he gathered from the lands,

from east and west, from north and south.[a]

4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,

finding no way to a city where they could settle.

5 They were hungry and thirsty,

and their lives ebbed away.

6Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

7 He led them by a straight way

to a city where they could settle.

8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

9for he satisfies the thirsty

and fills the hungry with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,

prisoners suffering in iron chains,

11 because they rebelled against God’s commands

and despised the plans of the Most High.

12 So he subjected them to bitter labor;

they stumbled, and there was no one to help.

13Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he saved them from their distress.

14 He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,

and broke away their chains.

15 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for mankind,

16 for he breaks down gates of bronze

and cuts through bars of iron.

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways

and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.

18 They loathed all food

and drew near the gates of death.

19Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he saved them from their distress.

20 He sent out his word and healed them;

he rescued them from the grave.

21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings

and tell of his works with songs of joy.

23 Some went out on the sea in ships;

they were merchants on the mighty waters.

24 They saw the works of the Lord,

his wonderful deeds in the deep.

25 For he spoke and stirred up a tempest

that lifted high the waves.

26 They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths;

in their peril their courage melted away.

27 They reeled and staggered like drunkards;

they were at their wits’ end.

28Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,

and he brought them out of their distress.

29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;

the waves of the sea[b] were hushed.

30 They were glad when it grew calm,

and he guided them to their desired haven.

31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for mankind.

32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people

and praise him in the council of the elders.

33 He turned rivers into a desert,

flowing springs into thirsty ground,

34 and fruitful land into a salt waste,

because of the wickedness of those who lived there.

35 He turned the desert into pools of water

and the parched ground into flowing springs;

36 there he brought the hungry to live,

and they founded a city where they could settle.

37 They sowed fields and planted vineyards

that yielded a fruitful harvest;

38 he blessed them, and their numbers greatly increased,

and he did not let their herds diminish.

39 Then their numbers decreased, and they were humbled

by oppression, calamity and sorrow;

40 he who pours contempt on nobles

made them wander in a trackless waste.

41But he lifted the needy out of their affliction

and increased their families like flocks.

42 The upright see and rejoice,

but all the wicked shut their mouths.

43 Let the one who is wise heed these things

and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

There I sat, wondering if God was punishing me. Then God showed me His character in multiple scenarios brought on by different reasons: by wandering, by rebellion, and by God for the glory of God. Through each scenario, when they cried out to the Lord He saved them from their distress. We cried out to the Lord yesterday. He showed me His character, then He saved me from my distress. The embassy now has all the information they need, our case is in its final review. I am singing praise and thanks to God for hearing our cry and “stilling the storm to a whisper.”  
I have been singing the song, “When the fight calls” by Hillsong Young and Free. My favorite lines are: 
"I won't let the storm weather my heart
Won't let the darkness beat me down
Sing in the night my hope alive in You
I'll walk through the fire and not be burned
Pray in the fight and watch it turn
Jesus tonight I give it all to You”
Constantly, I am being humbled and forced to put all my hope in Christ alone. I have sung this chorus over and over until I was hoarse. We all prayed God would give Matt and I the strength to get through this storm, that the darkness won’t beat us down, that our hope will stay alive in Christ, that we can walk through this trial without being burned, and that the fight will turn around in our favor. All while giving it up to God for His will to be done in His timing for His glory. The song continues:
You've overcome this world with love
And made my fight Your own
I lift my eyes and throw fear aside
And sing out into the night
Cause even when the world caves
Even when the fight calls
Even when the war's waged
I'll take heart
I know You are greater
Forever You are Savior
I will sing Your praise
With all that I have
With all that I am Lord
I'll stare down the waves
Cause You own the tide

I still myself and know
You wait for me
On waters wild
Where faith walks above the storm
We surrender this battle to Christ knowing that He owns the tide. We continue to cry out to God, as we are still in this trial, that He will keep our faith above the storm, bring us out of this land, and save us from our distress. That He will remove any distractions from the ladies handling our case at the embassy. That this final review will go smoothly and that it will be finished in time for us to go home next week. That there are no more bumps in the road leading us home. 
I miss everyone terribly. And cannot wait to thank you all in person for your prayers and encouragement.  
Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

Posted on February 20, 2017

Posted on February 20, 2017

It is hard to describe the past two weeks. They have simultaneously flown by and inched along. I have felt well, on top of things, and motivated to get things accomplished. Contradictorily, I have felt ill, tired, and like I just want to sit in bed all day long binge watching Netflix. My brain says, “You’ve got this Holly. It will be over before you know it. Think of how much glory this trial will bring to God, and how much stronger it will make your faith. What is one month without your husband? God is your strength, not Matt. God will get you through. Just keep taking it one day at a time.” Then my heart stays silent, trying to respect the brain. Uncontrollably, my heart's actions speak out of turn. A series of stress responses sneak over me. I feel my stomach turning, the back of my neck gets hot, my hairs stand up, my heart races. A quick prayer temporarily relieves the symptoms. Then I get frustrated with myself. Why is my body doing this to me? I trust in my God. I am not afraid. I am not anxious. I am not upset. Now I am sick, I have boils recurring on my body. I have a fever, I feel achey. I think of Job’s trials, I can only imagine how he felt. Again I ask, why is my body doing this to me?
I think back through the past year. Adoption is not easy. That is what so many adoptive parents frequently share. We went through the beginning stages wondering why everyone made such a fuss about it. Looking back, I see the difficulty that I easily overlooked in the moment. An incredible amount of stress came with getting the house ready, reading five books worth of forms that you have to then accurately fill out and sign. Then the stress that comes with finding time to and taking classes, getting the house ready, being interrogated, having your child questioned social services, and going into federal offices to be checked out (biometrics scans). Nerves are tightened when literally your entire family is under the microscope. Even though we have nothing to hide! Then there’s the fundraising because you know you do not have what it costs to accomplish the next step. Trusting God’s provision we strategically had to navigate the act of asking for help over and over again without seeming needy or lazy. Throughout the year we juggled the need to file all the forms on time, making sure to not forget any and to make multiple copies of each. Then we realized we did forget one and we had to scramble to file it before we left. Keeping up with your normal workload while doing all this is enough stress. But that is just the work involved. Throughout all the work related stress; we dealt with the emotional stress that comes from longing for children we’ve never met, introducing our son to the concept of being a big brother, knowing our adoption could fall through for many reasons, and knowing that our future children are barely cared for. I’ll never forget how cried in Aldis when I received the phone call from our agency about our November 24th court date. It was perfect timing. But more stress followed. Work stress of wrapping up wedding season, leaving no loose ends before the trip. That meant I worked 10 times harder. Physical stress came into full swing because I hardly slept the entire month before we came to Africa. And emotional stress came from the travel prep, the flight, and prepping for the first time meeting our girls. Two weeks after relieving the stress of our future children being in someone else’s care, we learned about and decided to adopt the babies. That train just started right back up again without any warning. These were joyous and exciting times, but that does not neutralize the fact that it has all been incredibly stressful. There is no need to feel guilty for being stressed. This is not anxiety. It is not a lack of trust. It is simply stress. Prolonged, hardcore stress that is beginning to show the toll it has been taking on my body. That is why my body is doing this to me. A solid year of continuous slightly above average stress. I took anatomy and physiology in college. Over the past two weeks I couldn’t help but I remember the instructor teaching us what stress does to your body. 
Nevertheless, I see much beauty in my situation. The past year really did fly. God walked us through a myriad of doors. At any given time throughout 2016, if one would have asked if I was stressed I would have answered, “No, not at all" (with the exception of the month before we left for Africa). "This adoption has gone really smoothly. And it really isn’t as hard as you would think.” I said exactly that to more than one person last year. “Wow, you’re brave.” One responded. I didn’t see it. I am just walking through one door at a time. I am not even opening the door or directing myself to the door. That’s not bravery, it's just walking. Now, my survival is owing to God carrying me through. I can’t even take credit for walking now. He comforts me in his arms through this scary storm. He won’t let me go until I have the strength to stand on my own again. 
Truth be told, we are fighting a battle in the name of Jesus Christ for the lives of these sweet children. Battles take skill, tools, armor, strength, endurance, and a leader.He is our leader. He inspires us and freely gives us these tools, especially the strength and endurance to push through a long battle. It is demanding and painful, but God is here fighting beside us. He will not forsake us, ensuring victory. 
Shortly after Matt left, a new battle arose. On February 5th, it was time to call the embassy about delivering our I-600 application. All day, on February 4th, I refreshed my memory of the process that we needed to go through. In my research I saw a new alert."On January 1, 2017 the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Convention) will enter into force for this country.  However, please be advised that the Department of State has determined that it will not be able to issue Hague Adoption Certificates for adoptions from this country that are initiated on or after January 1, 2017 under the Convention because this country’s implementing legislation, the Children’s Bill of 2016, has not yet been signed into law, and a Central Authority has not been established...In the meantime, we are confirming with this countries' officials whether this country will permit cases in which a U.S. citizen filed a Form I-600A, Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition, or a Form I-600, Petition to Classify Orphan as an immediate relative, prior to January 1 to continue under the non-Hague adoption process.
My stress responses flared up, again. "Does this mean they are not going to accept our i-600? Maybe I am reading into this too much.” I thought to myself. Next, I reached out via email to various offices and agencies in the U.S. to help shed light on the situation. They either reiterated the alert or simply told me they did not know. Our facilitator was unreachable. Monday came. I called the embassy, “Hello I would like to talk with someone about the petition i-600 that I need to file.” In a quick response I heard, “What is the I-600?” Why am I surprised.. Really? She didn’t know. My answer was word for word the definition of the i-600, which I unintentionally memorized. She transferred me. Then that lady transferred me. Then I was given some answers. Yes, my fears were right. She explained the embassy may or may not accept my application for the i-600 petition. Thankfully, they will have their answer for me by "mid-February". She took down my information, and reassured that she would call if any news arose. A day later she called, “What is the date on your social welfare report for the girls?” "January 17th, 2017.” I replied nervously. “But our original court date was supposed to be in November, 2016.” I desperately pleaded hoping it would make a difference in our case. I shared with her how long we’ve been here, how many delays we’ve faced, and how my husband had to go back to work. I tried to pull on her momma heart strings. “When I called the kids in to FaceTime with daddy they thought I said we were leaving to go be with daddy. After straightening out the misunderstanding, they cried and were sad for the rest of the day.” Who knows if that actually made an impact on her. Two days later she called back. “We would like you to come in for an interview on Wednesday next week with every document you have regarding this adoption.” How exciting, and nerve wracking. 
The entire day before this interview, I spent at the passport office with the kids. Our facilitator has a contact there who was helping us, we followed him. We did as he said. We waited for officials to meet with us, question us, and sign the girls’ papers. Then we waited to be called in for the biometrics and photos. Then we waited more. Then we ran errands. It was a long yet necessary day. Within the next two weeks we should have the passports. It was now Wednesday, the interview day. I connected to Joy’s offer and let the kids stay at the guest house. This all day outing would be just me. Taxi ride there, waiting in the round about with all the others who had appointments, then being assured through security to finally get to wait in the air conditioned building.
I was the first in the interview room. “Please let me see your appointment letter.” the woman on the other side of the glass asked. I firmly confidently responded, “I don’t have one. I was called and told to come on this day at this time with all the adoption papers I have in order to discuss the i-600 application I wish to file.” She responded to me with a notion of inexperience, “Ok, then. Can I see all the documents.” I asked her which ones she wanted since I have folders upon folders of them, some of which likely wouldn’t pertain to the i-600. But I’m not the one who worked in the embassy so how would I really know what would pertain? “Give me whatever you think we would need.” I rummaged through my folders taking a few papers from here and a couple documents from there. She told me to go back out to the reception area and wait while they review it all. Hours went by. I prayed God would ease my stress symptoms, that he would help me be calm and knowledgeable. I actively worked towards relieving tension. I uncrossed my arms, took a deep breath, and relaxed my jittery leg. A continued prayer pleaded that God would help me ask the right questions, answer their questions well, and that they would accept the i-600 application. They called me back in. She questioned me, “Do you have any photos?” Me, “Yes, here you go.” She continued, “Where is their father? Why did their mother give them up? Where are the children now? What orphanage were they in? How did you find out about them? How did your agency find out about them? Do you have any documentation regarding their orphanage stay?” I’m sure there’s a few questions I’m forgetting. I honestly barely know the answers to half those questions. Most of it was “classified” until the court hearing. Then in the hearing we only heard a brief dictation of the story. She walked out of the enclosure on the other side of the interview room’s glass divider for a few minutes. When she returned she said, "You may go ahead and fill out the applications for the girls." I slowly and meticulously completed them, referencing all the answers in the numerous documents before me. Then I handed them to the interviewer. “Does this mean you are accepting the i-600 application?” I asked. She answered as if it was an automatic response, “You have to wait to find out.” I left her with many copies of important documents and the i-600 applications. What just happened? 
When I got back to the guest house I called our facilitator to tell him about the interview. He said, “if they took documents and the i-600 application from you, that means they accepted your application.” What a relief it was to hear that, although I still didn’t completely believe his statement. A few days later I received an email from the office. “We have accepted your i-600 application and are in the process of verifying all the documents regarding your case. We wish to interview the birth mother and have set an appointment for Thursday, next week. Please contact your facilitator to arrange this meeting with the birth mother.” Okay, now I believe it! What a weight lifted off my chest. I forwarded the emial to the facilitator then texted him to make sure he received it. He responded, "Everything is set up for the interview. This is very normal. And they usually approve the i-600 shortly after interviewing the surviving parent.” another big mountain was just moved through prayer. 
Next, I inquired about the babies. Our facilitator has been back and forth from their village multiple times this month. As of last Tuesday, all necessary family members signed the papers to relinquish their rights to the babies. This was a moment that has been months in the making and on the edge of not happening at all. Now that it is done, the social welfare department needs to do their official investigation on the babies situation and their history. As soon as this is completed, our facilitator will pick up the babies and bring them to the guest house for me. Wow, are things moving now. Our facilitator’s hope is that the court hearing for us to adopt the babies will happen within a week of the custody transfer. This sounds ambitious to my weary heart, but I’ll pray for the speed regardless. 
On the day Matt left, we discussed our current situation including: What needs to be accomplished in order for me to come home with the kids? The girls need their passports, an approved i-600, their medicals, and a visa. The babies need reports filed, a court date scheduled, a court date to actually take place, the adoption decree, their passports, an approved i-600, their medicals, and a visa. What was inducing the most stress? I expressed how not having a clear timeline or date to look forward to is what makes this the most difficult for me. It could be weeks, it could be months. We don’t know. If we keep waiting for things to get done with the babies, then I could be stuck here for an indefinite amount of time. What are our options? Here is what we came up with:
Option one: Wait for everything with both the girls and the babies to be completed. Then come home with all five children. This timeframe is the most indefinite. We haven’t even adopted the babies yet. It took two months here before we were able to adopt the girls. Given that potential, stress will be high.  
Option two: Complete the girls’ case as soon as possible. Get home before this experience becomes traumatic to Matthew. Continue working on the babies’ case, take custody of them, and care for them. Then when it is time that the girls’ case is completed and they are allowed to go to the U.S., Matthew, Adah, Ayana, and I will fly home. I will put the babies in the care of someone in this country that I now know and trust. We will pay them child support. And our facilitator will complete their process in our absence. Whenever the day comes that the babies’ case is finished, I will fly back by myself for a few days to pick them up and bring them home. 
We decided on option two. It makes the most sense. Every major adjustment effects children at any age, but we have peace that the babies are young enough to go through this transition without negative effects on their ability to trust and bond with Matt and I. Quite honestly, I think this option will help me properly bond with the babies. Preventing me from associating our first months together as one of the most stressful times in my life. The kids and I will get to meet them and care for them for a few weeks while we prepare for returning home to daddy. It will be hard to say goodbye to them, but better than not getting to meet them at all. If timing works out where we are able to have the i-600’s for the babies approved within the week before we can take the girls home, then Matt and I will consider me and the kids staying until the babies can come with us. God is powerful and can make this happen if it is His will. I have peace with either outcome. 
To wrap it all up:
  1. I need prayer for continued strength in this last stretch of our battle. My body’s ability to handle this level of long term stress is growing weaker.
  2. Everything for the girls could very likely be completed within the next three weeks. Meaning, I would be returning home with all three six year olds. Pray specifically: That the embassy's interview with the birth mother this Thursday is a success. For the I-600 approvals to come through within the next week. That the passports are completed this week. That the girls’ medicals check out ok. And that the Visa’s for the girls can be finished in a weeks time.
  3. The babies case is still progressing. Their health is stable. We may have them in our care this week. When I leave with the six year olds, the babies will likely have to stay in this country in the care of one of our new friends. Pray specifically: For continued improvement in their health. That the adoption court hearing happens within the week. That the time I have with them will be as easy as caring for twin one year olds can be. That they sleep well. That healing and bonding happens quickly. And that God can move the rest of their case with lightening speed. If it’s not His will for them to come home with me and the older kids, then I need prayer for wisdom and guidance with who to ask to help care for the babies. And how to ask them to take on this burden with an unknown end. 
  4. Currently, we do not have the money we need to buy 4 return tickets to America or to purchase an 8 passenger vehicle. The tickets are a necessity, we know God will provide. I have no stress over this issue. As for the vehicle, it would be nice, but we could make due driving two cars everywhere until we save the money to purchase something bigger. Just keep us in your prayers. Don’t feel obligated to donate unless God is pressing it upon your heart. And just keep us posted if you know of anyone selling a reliable 8 passenger vehicle for a good price. 
Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. With all my sincerity I pray God blesses you. 

Posted on February 3, 2017

Posted on February 3, 2017

On January 31 there was a big thunderstorm here in Africa. The wind blew. The power went out. Rain poured into our little apartment through the frames of the poorly installed air-conditioning units. Little did we know this was the eve of an even bigger storm of the emotional variety.
That night the kids, especially Matthew, were scared of the storm. Adah was showering when it started to get worse and when the power went out. I quickly went into the bathroom to help her with a light. She was already out of the shower with a towel around here while she jumped up and down with eyes wide open in fear. As soon as she saw me and the light, she was relieved of any fear she had. That’s a beautiful thing. Matt lit the oil lamp that was already in the apartment for such an occasion. Then we all worked together to clean the water off the floors while Matt went outside to help turn on the generator and to try to stop the rain from coming in.  Matthew continued to be afraid, I tried to talk to him about the story of Jesus calming the windy seas. I seem to remember my parents telling me the same story when I was afraid of a storm. Matt was back inside, and now it was time for bed. We prayed together and tucked the kids in. Matt carried Matthew to his bed, then Matthew started to cry. 
He was still afraid. Matt didn’t set him down. He stood there, in the room cradling his six-year-old son. I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, I was so glad Matt filled me in, “I stood there holding him to comfort him. After a few minutes I asked him if he felt safe in my arms. Matthew replied, ‘yes’ with a nod. Then I asked him if he thought anyone could take him out of my arms. He confidently shook his head, “no”. I told him how God is holding us, just like I am holding him. No one and nothing can get to us without first going through God. And nothing can take us out of his arms. We are safe. He is our father, just like I am yours.” After the analogy, Matt prayed over Matthew. By the end of the prayer Matthew was peacefully almost asleep. Matt glowed as he told me his story. “It felt so good to hold him like that, to be there for him, and to calm his fears.” My heart was melted quicker than an ice cube in this African heat. 
Also on January 31st, Matt had been corresponding with his boss. The agreed upon FMLA time was quickly coming to an end, the following day quite a few important people  needed to meet to discuss the situation and renegotiate Matt's contract. I told Matt that I doubt they will be able to extend it indefinitely as Matt thought. My best guess was they would decide to give him two more weeks. Matt emailed his boss that night. He told them how sorry he was to put them in this difficult situation. We understand that they need to be fair to all their employees, which is why these rules and restricted number of FMLA days are in place. But he also explained how hard it would be for me if he had to leave. And how he really hoped he wouldn’t have to leave his wife and three kids in a third world country without him here to help and protect us. He also explained what I would have to handle if everything goes through with the babies. We prayed hard about it, felt peace, then went to bed. I had a  pit in my stomach. 
The next day we waited to hear from our coordinator about the babies. He was, as every other week this past month, supposed to be able to go to their village and get things accomplished. I tried my hardest to keep myself busy with homeschooling and photo editing throughout the day so that I wouldn’t dwell on the two stressful issues in front of us. The facilitator texted a vague message that basically told us something else came up and everything was being pushed back, again, to next week. This was another disappointment, but I’m numb to them by now. Shortly thereafter, Matt received an email from his boss saying what a tough situation he was in.  Matt can’t loose his job. For multiple obvious reasons, but also because our home study hinges on Matt having “gainful employment”. So he told them he understood, and would willingly start back to work whenever they need him to. We waited for the response email. The phone was as a watched pot. I couldn’t take the suspense of the answer I knew we would get. So I locked myself in the bathroom to take a shower without interruptions. When I got out of the shower, I found Matt sitting on the end of our bed with his head hung low. He was sobbing. We held each other and he repeated, “I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I am so sorry.” Of course I wanted to tell him he had no reason to be sorry. But that wouldn’t have helped. Besides, I will never know what it is like to be the protector and provider of a wife and three children and have to leave them in a stressful and heart-wrenching situation for an unknown amount of time. We cried together. I felt a surge of strength and was able to hold myself together as I listened to Matt pour his heart out. It’s interesting how God grants us strength to hold each other up when we need it most. On this day, I gained a deeper understanding of what it means to Matt to be a father, and what a wonderful father he is. 
“I don’t want the girls to think I am leaving you and abandoning them, just like their father and all their mother’s other partner’s had.” Matt sobbed. “Just last night as I held Matthew, I told him I would always be here for him and I would never leave him. And now I have to tell him that I am going to leave him here. I don’t want to leave my children. I don’t want them to be afraid. I want to be here to protect them and comfort them and show them they don’t need to be afraid. I don’t want to leave you. I don’t want you to be afraid. I don’t want you to have to deal with all of this alone.” I don’t know that I have ever seen that amount of pain in my husband’s face. 
We know this is the right decision, the obedient one, but boy is it tough. We booked a flight then told the kids. Matt and I thought it would be best to start by telling the girls. If Matthew started crying it might scare or confuse them. We worded it to make it seem like a good and exciting thing. “Daddy’s boss called and really needs his help fixing a special machine. So daddy is going to go on a plane and go home in a few days. Mommy, Matthew and you two are going to stay here a little longer to finish things up so we can go back home too. Daddy is also going to finish getting our house and your room ready for you! And when Mommy, Matthew and you girls come home on the plane, he is going to get you a nice big present and give it to you when he picks us up from the airport.” Huge smiles! They squealed with excitement. “Dad when are you leaving?” Adah asked. They understood. Two down, one to go. We kept the girls occupied in the other room with a little screen time, then brought Matthew into our room. In much the same way we explained the situation to him. “Can I go with you?” He asked excitedly. We talked about it, but knew that wouldn’t be a good idea. “Matthew, we know you are excited to go home. And it might seem like that is what you want right now, but you would be really lonely while daddy is at work and mommy is in Africa still. Besides, you need to keep mommy and the girls company and you need to keep up with your homeschooling.” Matthew saw me looking emotional, then he got emotional. I tried to suck it up and be strong. But my strong little boy was doing the same thing in front of me, fighting back the tears with puffy red eyes. I had to tell him it was ok to cry. He let a few tears fall, told Matt he would really miss him. Then he pulled himself together as a young man would. He wasn’t heartbroken or crushed. I believe it is because Matthew understands, due to a strong confidence in his father’s love for him, this is not Matt leaving us. This is just him being far away from us for a time. There is a big difference. That night, after tucking all the kids into bed, Matthew came in our room to ask us a simple and non-relevant question. As he asked the question he slipped into our bed and started snuggling. We saw through the question, and let him stay. Matt was the big spoon with his strong arm holding tight around both Matthew and I. He needed it and so did we. 
The next morning I thought better, but felt worse. My mind was saying, “This is good. We have a source of income again. Matt will be able to put our house back together. Maybe he will be able to find us a 7 passenger vehicle. Maybe he can sell a few things so that we can purchase the rest of our return tickets home.” But my body was aching. I felt sick to my stomach, then I would feel flush on the back of my neck, then my head would pound. I don’t have a fever, it’s not malaria. Matt would hold me for a moment, the pains went away. We decided to spend our last day in Africa together at our favorite pool. My body finally calmed down. When we got back to the apartment, Matt started to pack, and right away I felt sick. I laid there on the bed watching him pack getting sicker and sicker to my stomach. 
Why I couldn't shake the feeling? I know I will be fine. I know God wasn’t surprised by all this. And I can see good in it. Besides that we are trying so hard to focus on our countless blessings, rather than our few hardships. I thought of the poor young mother I know who unexpectedly lost her husband earlier this year. And other’s who’s husbands are terminally ill. Still other’s who’s husband left them for another woman. All these young moms have to make it on their own, dealing with all the difficulties life brings on while caring for their kids. What a blessing it is that I still have my husband, he’s just not going to be beside me. You better believe we are going to FaceTime everyday, and he will still be here to emotionally support me and to pray for me. I am so blessed, I am so grateful that God continues to bless us with time, even if that time is from a distance (and five hours behind). We are thankful for the three months Matt was able to have off. We spent an incredible amount of time together, bonding as a family with little responsibility to distract us. 
February 3, It’s the night Matt is flying back home without us. He ran around the city all day trying to get a few more things done for me. I hid myself when I got emotional. I am trying to be strong for the kids. In the last hour we had together we got the kids ready for bed as we have every other night. Then we all snuggled in our bed while Matt read the Bible to us. We all prayed together. One by one the kids hugged and kissed Matt goodbye. Matthew was now a mess. There was no sucking it in at this point. I had a few more good seconds I could hold it back so I set the girls up in my bed for the movie night I promised. I quickly walked back out to say my goodbyes. We held each other closer than we ever had. He prayed protection over me again and ran through all he could one last time. “Please keep your armor on all the time. Don’t take it off. Don’t pull away from God. Pray all the time. Be vigilent. Stay in the word. Stay strong for both of us for our kids.” We could not keep it in any longer. We both cried. “It is crazy how much we love each other. It is even crazier to think that our love for each other is a drop in the bucket compared to how much God loves us.” I said through the tears. We kept trying to give that last hug, but another even tighter hug would follow. Finally it was time. He walked through the door, closing it behind him with his red puffy eyes fixed on me until the last possible second.  
We are sad, this is a scary time full of trials, and we are weary in this long and strenuous battle. But we know our Father has us in his arms. He is comforting us. And no one can get to us without first going through him. And nothing will be able to take us out of his arms. We will all be fine. We are learning to put our trust in God, not man. Even if for me that man is my husband and for Matt that man is himself. It is better to trust in God than put confidence in man. Please pray for us through this new addition to our trials. Pray for Matt’s safety while traveling, for my safety while in Africa, and for comfort while we grieve our distance. Pray God will give me strength and guidance to be able to accomplish all that needs done for the rest of us to get home quickly. I am really tired of being in Africa. 
Here is the song on my mind tonight:
Wonderful, merciful Savior
Precious Redeemer and Friend
Who would have thought that a Lamb
Could rescue the souls of men
Oh, You rescue the souls of men

Counselor, Comforter, Keeper
Spirit we long to embrace
You offer hope when our hearts have
Hopelessly lost our way
Oh, we've hopelessly lost the way

You are the One that we praise
You are the One we adore
You give the healing and grace
Our hearts always hunger for
Oh, our hearts always hunger for

Almighty, infinite Father
Faithfully loving Your own
Here in our weakness You find us
Falling before Your throne
Oh, we're falling before Your throne

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